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Jan 06, 2018

Total Talk - WC Sunday

Sunday’s betting festivities kick off early at 1:00 p.m. ET as the Jaguars and Bills make their long-awaited returns to the playoffs. Temperatures are expected to be in the fifties for this contest, which isn’t the norm in the Sunshine State. The last Wild Card matchup of the weekend is set for 4:30 p.m. ET as the Panthers and Saints meet for the third time this season.

As mentioned in Saturday’s piece, the ‘under’ has gone 14-5-1 (74%) in the Wild Card round the last five seasons. Of the four teams in action on Sunday, only Carolina and New Orleans have contributed to that record with each team playing once in this round during that span.

For the playoffs, I’m going to break every game and offer up my quick handicap and prediction for all the matchups. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!

Sunday, Jan. 7

Buffalo at Jacksonville (CBS, 1:00 p.m. ET)

This total opened 41 at [...] and was quickly knocked down at the global book. As of Saturday morning, the number is sitting 39 and Scott Cooley, spokesman for BM, told VegasInsider.com that the ‘under’ on this game is their biggest liability since the squares agree with the sharps and believe this matchup will be a defensive battle. 

Playing the ‘under’ in low totals can be dangerous and usually require a full 60-minute session for total bettors. The Jaguars have had seven totals close below 40 and the ‘over’ has gone 4-3 in those contests while Buffalo had three totals close in the thirties and the ‘under’ went 2-1.  

The pros have been riding the Jacksonville ‘under’ all season and the club finished the season with a total mark of 8-8. It’s easy to see the lean to the low side with the Jaguars knowing the defense is ranked second in both scoring at 16.8 points per game, total yards (286.1) and sacks (55).

However, the wise guys and many other bettors were burned a few times with late second-half surges in their games. Make a note that the Jaguars allowed 11.7 PPG at home in the second-half this season, and that’s ranked 24th overall in the league.

On paper, the Jaguars defense has a big edge over a Bills offense that is ranked 29th in both total yards (302.6) and yards per play (4.8). Plus, Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) is ‘questionable’ and won’t be 100 percent if he does suit up.

As much heat as Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles takes and he should at times, the numbers never lie and the Jaguars closed the season with the sixth best total offense (365.9 YPG) and fifth best scoring unit (26.1 PPG). Buffalo’s defense isn’t great by any means (355.1 YPG, No. 26) but it played solid down the stretch and only allowed 18.1 PPG in their last six games. If you take out two results against the Patriots, that number shrinks to 12.3 PPG.

Bortles looked sharp in early December as the Jaguars won three in a row at home but the team enters the playoffs off back-to-back road losses and he’s been picked off five times in those setbacks while only throwing two touchdowns.

These teams have met five times since 2010 and the scoreboard operator was fairly busy as the ‘over’ cashed in all of the meetings. Last season, Buffalo captured a 28-21 home win. In 2015, Jacksonville posted a 34-31 victory in a game played at London.

Lastly, I can’t finish breaking down this matchup without mentioning the Road Total System.

What’s the system?

Play the ‘over’ in any game when the visitor is playing their third consecutive road game

We saw this angle go 1-1 in Week 15 of this season but it could’ve went 2-0 ‘over’ if Big Ben didn’t try to be force the issue against the Patriots. Even with that result, the high side finished 5-3 and is now 44-23 (66%) the last 12 seasons.

The situation fits in this matchup with Buffalo playing its third straight road game after facing the Patriots at Foxboro in Week 16 before visiting the Dolphins in South Florida last Sunday.

It’s a system to keep an eye on going forward, especially with the clear-cut profits.

Fearless Prediction: Even though the Jaguars played their regular starters in Week 17 at the Titans last week, I’m not putting much stock into that game since they already clinched a playoff spot. With that being said, I can’t ignore what Jacksonville has done off a loss. Prior to that game, the Jaguars dropped four games and they responded with four wins while averaging 32.3 PPG. I’m going to ride the trend and play the Jaguars Team Total Over (24 ½).

Carolina at New Orleans (FOX, 4:30 p.m. ET)

According to Micah Roberts and his latest Vegas Money Moves installment, this is going to be the make-or-break game for the books this weekend. The total was sent out at 48 and held steady for most of the week even though the betting trends are leaning to the high side, which isn’t surprising.

This series has watched the ‘over’ cash in six of the last seven games between the pair, which includes both results this season. Those two games had totals ranging from 46 to 47 ½ and both outcomes received a late touchdown in the fourth quarters to secure the high side.

The recent encounter in Week 13 from New Orleans watched the Saints jump out to a 21-14 lead at halftime and they led 31-14 midway through the fourth quarter. The Panthers managed just 279 total yards on offense and the late touchdown made the final score (31-21) a tad more respectable.

The 21 points was the lowest number Carolina scored on the road versus the Saints since they were held to 13 in the 2013, which was QB Cam Newton’s third season. In the three previous games at the Superdome before this year’s trip, the Panthers racked up 41, 41 and 38 points.

Will that potent Carolina offense show up this Sunday? It’s fair to say that you can’t answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with much confidence. The Panthers have looked amazing at times on the road in wins over the Patriots (33-30) and Lions (27-24) but they were also held to a combined 20 points as visitors to the Bears and Buccaneers.

New Orleans has improved defensively (336 YPG, No. 17) from last season when it was ranked 26th in total defense (375 YPG) but it is still suspect at time and that was evident last Sunday when the Bucs posted 455 yards on them.  

The Saints go as their offense goes and this year’s unit is once again explosive (28 PPG, 391 YPG) and the added dimension of a running game (129.4 YPG) has certainly helped the cause. In the two regular season meetings versus Carolina, the Saints posted an eye-opening 149 and 148 rushing yards in their wins behind the two-headed monster of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.

At home, New Orleans averaged a league-best 30.1 PPG and that helped the ‘over’ go 5-3. Sticking with the home edge, the Saints are 4-0 in the Superdome with Drew Brees at QB and the offense has averaged 37 PPG. Sure enough, the ‘over’ went 4-0 in those victories.

Fearless Prediction: Even though this is the third encounter between the pair this season, I’m not sure which offensive or defensive units have the advantage but the oddsmakers are telling you that New Orleans (-6 ½) is clearly the better team. Part of me wants to believe that Carolina will score at least four times but I just can’t trust the offense on the road. I do believe New Orleans will get at least five scores in this game and knowing they posted more touchdowns (46) on offense instead of field goals (31) this season, I’ll side with the Saints Team Total Over (27 ½).

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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